Music students share composing process

Joseph Fitzner and Hanna Wilson talk about creating their own music.

Mt. A’s music department allows students to grow and live with music. They are encouraged to explore their tastes and learn the rich history connected with music. Composition is a big part of this degree too – learning how to produce music yourself is a difficult skill to acquire. Music students must transform their mode of thinking from recital to creation to achieve this lofty task.

Hanna Wilson and Joseph Fitzner, second-year music students, are both taking composition classes. They agreed to sit down and share some insight on composition.

When auditioning for a spot in the department, you must choose one instrument (or voice) on which to focus. In learning to compose, students are encouraged to explore other instruments. Each has a different personality and requires a different skill set. “You have to understand the instrument so well,” said Fitzner. “I really do enjoy the breadth of instrument choices.” Wilson said, “It’s really useful. You really need to understand whichever instrument you choose; you have to know how it works.”

Kevin Morse, acting department head and professor of the composition classes, helps young composers express poetry musically. The students choose their own poems and transpose the writing into music. “We analyzed the poems, figured out meaning and stayed true to it through the music we wrote,” Fitzner said. When discussing her creative process on this assignment, Wilson said that she tries “to think of a feeling or mood I would like to convey, then figure out the tempo from there.”

“Starting is the hardest part, just sitting down and beginning to write,” Fitzner said.

Fitzner did not always see himself committing to music full time. He was accepted at Mt. A in Grade 12, but to the physics department, not music. “I’d always kind of wanted to do music but never thought I had the talent or education to be able to do it.” It was one of his high school teachers who changed his mind with a visit from some marimba players. “After that, I decided I had to do music,” said Fitzner. “It inspired me so much.” During his exam week, Fitzner emailed Mt. A’s music department about an audition and included an audition tape. “I somehow managed to get in!”

Wilson started playing guitar when she was 11. “Through learning chords and listening to songs, I started writing Taylor Swift-y pop songs,” she said. In high school, “[jazz band] ignited that creative spark again” when Wilson learned how to improvise music. Upon arriving at Mt. A, Wilson knew that she had to be a part of composition classes.

“I figured, I love creating music, so why not focus on composing. It has pushed me to put stuff on the page instead of sitting and thinking you’re not good enough,” she said.

Classes like these help young musicians develop their skills and take initiative in writing their own pieces. For Fitzner, composing movie scores has always been his passion. He dreams about “going up to Pixar and handing them my resume.” Wilson has something different in mind. She would like to pursue the performance aspect of her focus instrument, bass trombone. Both of these artists are continuing composition classes and will produce more music along with their classmates. Keep an eye out for their end-of-year composition recitals.

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